- Government says assurances given by EU on backstop
- MPs to vote on May’s ‘improved deal’ tomorrow
- Brussels resigned to Brexit extension after London rejects EU backstop offer
- William Hague: Brexit is there on the table. Take it and run, while there’s still a chance
- What can Theresa May do now to deliver Brexit?
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Theresa May has clinched changes to her Brexit deal in her bid to win last minute support for her Brexit deal before it goes to a vote on Tuesday, David Lidington has told the Commons.
Mrs May has secured “legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration,” said Cabinet Office Minister Lidington, who is May’s de facto deputy.
Lidington said the sides had agreed a joint legally binding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol on Northern Ireland that confirms the EU cannot try to “trap” the United Kingdom in the Irish backstop indefinitely.
“The EU cannot try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, and that doing so would be an explicit breach of the legally binding commitments that both sides have agreed,” Lidington said.
They have also agreed a joint statement to supplement the Political Declaration, Lidington said.
The “improved deal” will be put to MPs to vote on tomorrow, he said.
Mr Lidington said the Attorney General would be publishing advice ahead of Tuesday’s debate, but needed time to consider the new changes.
“The Attorney General will publish his legal opinion,” he said. “That will be available in good time before the debate.
“I think the house would expect the Attorney General to consider very carefully rather than rush an opinion out to meet the deadline for this statement this evening.”
Juncker says ‘legally-binding instrument’ agreed
Jean-Claude Juncker, at joint press conference with Theresa May, says a “legally-binding” instrument to clarify the backstop has been agreed
He said the Irish Premier, Leo Varadkar, had approved the changes.
He said the changes “complement the Withdrawal Agreement” but do not reopen it for renegotiation.
May and Juncker press conference ‘imminent’
EU officials tell Reuters that May and Juncker will hold their press conference shortly.
EU officials had said earlier that a joint presser would only be held if there was solid progress to announce in the stalled talks.
David Liddington addressing the House
Liddington says PM has secured “legally binding” assurances on the backstop.
The Cabinet Office Minister told the House of Commons that the two sides agreed on a “joint instrument” clarifying the withdrawal deal.
The measure is intended to reassure Britain it won’t be trapped forever in a mechanism designed to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
William Hague: Brexit is there on the table. Take it and run, while there’s still a chance
This is timely – and just published – by William Hague:
As human beings, we have a natural tendency to blame others for landing us in a mess. And now, with British politics on the verge of the most complex, intractable, emotional and all-consuming muddle since the Civil War, preparations to blame everybody else are in full swing.
If Brexit doesn’t happen on March 29, disappointing or enraging the 17 million people who voted for it, blame will be flung everywhere. Leavers will blame Remainers for undermining negotiations and Remainers will blame Leavers for not taking the deal in front of them. Many will blame the Irish for taking a hard line, and the EU in general for being so intransigent. Tories will blame each other for not uniting, and virtually everyone will blame Theresa May for not finding the genius solution.
Unfortunately, there will be some truth in all of this, giving scope for all sides to whip up resentment and stoke division. For anyone who wants to hate the Establishment, or despise the majority, or split a party, or just rubbish their opponents, it will be a field day like no other.
There will be more reasons than ever not to listen to each other. Instead we will all revel in the reinforcement of our existing opinions and know that we were totally right but disgracefully let down.
In any forthcoming general election or second referendum – and the chances of one or both happening are higher than many people think – our great democracy will have entered the age of the angry crowd, the abusive tweet and the violent incident.
This will be a tragedy in a country hitherto known throughout the world for its free speech, tolerance of different opinions and its disdain for extremism.
Meanwhile in Westminster…
16 or 17 ministers were pulled together tonight for a meeting in Cobra room in Cabinet Office – more progress been made than expected sources suggest – now down to ‘how constructive ERG and DUP are willing to be’ says a source
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 11, 2019
MPs not sure whether to stay or go
So there could be a Brexit statement tonight, starting 10.30pm at the latest (when the House is otherwise due to rise) but we don’t know if there will be, or whether it will be worth waiting for. We’ve no votes tonight, so MPs really don’t know if they should stay or go…
— Kerry McCarthy (@KerryMP) March 11, 2019
Revealed: Nigel Farage met Donald Trump and asked him to back no-deal Brexit
Ben Riley-Smith reports:
Donald Trump and Nigel Farage discussed the merits of a no deal Brexit during a face-to-face meeting earlier this month, The Telegraph can reveal.
The US president was urged to support walking away from the table if a bad agreement is on offer – just like he had done during North Korea talks in Vietnam.
The conversation took place at the Conservative Political Action Conference [Cpac] in Washington DC, a gathering of right-leaning politicians where both men gave speeches.
Mr Trump has been critical of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, warning it will limit the scope of a US-UK free trade deal, but has not gone as far as to publicly call on Britain to leave the European Union without an agreement.
If the US president were to announce support for a no deal Brexit it would be politically damaging for Mrs May, who is struggling to convince Brexiteers in her own party to vote for her proposals.
The conversation is another sign of the access some hard Brexiteers have to the US president. Key members of Mr Trump’s administration are believed by UK officials to be fiercely Eurosceptic.
Sketch: Will Mrs May get a better Brexit deal? No one knows… including her stand-in
Michael Deacon writes:
With time running out, and panic growing, Jeremy Corbyn demanded that Theresa May come to the Commons and give an urgent update on Brexit. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t turn up. And she didn’t even send the Brexit Secretary in her place.
Labour MPs fumed. “It’s customary on these occasions for the House to complain that the Government has sent the monkey, and not the organ grinder,” grumbled Kevin Brennan (Lab, Cardiff West). “But on this occasion, we haven’t even got the monkey!”
What they’d got instead was something more closely resembling a guinea pig. A gentle, harmless-looking creature, with sandy hair and an air of anxious amenability, Robin Walker is a junior minister in the Brexit department, and it was he who’d been shoved into the chamber to serve as Mrs May’s stand-in. MPs peppered him with questions. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to know many of the answers.
For example, he didn’t seem to know whether Theresa May would be flying out for last-minute talks with the EU. And he didn’t seem to know whether any deal she did strike could be approved by EU heads of government in time for tomorrow’s crucial vote in the Commons. In fact, he seemed certain of only one thing, which he repeated, in his unassuming manner, numerous times. It was that, whatever deal Theresa May ended up putting to MPs, they should definitely vote for it.
It’s not over yet – but as we await news from Strasbourg, here’s Camilla Tominey’s take on Theresa May’s frantic day so far
The Prime Minister’s aircraft had been refueled and was ready and waiting on the runway at RAF Northolt.
It followed overnight speculation that some changes to the Withdrawal Agreement might prompt Theresa May to make a last ditch trip to Brussels.
Instead Downing Street started the day by dashing all hopes of a breakthrough, once again describing the talks as “deadlocked”.
Talks of a delay inevitably followed with Mrs May under pressure to replace the meaningful vote with a “conditional” motion, which would put an option of a specific change to her deal to MPs, with the aim of then presenting it to Brussels as a clear mandate.
Few could disagree with Brexiteer MP Mark Francois’s prediction of there being a 50/50 chance of the vote being pulled within the tense hours that followed.
As Downing Street held a fraught 8.30am meeting mapping out the crucial day ahead, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was carrying out his own analysis of the weekend’s events at a meeting of EU27 ambassadors.
Reading out a section of a Sunday newspaper interview with Geoffrey Cox, in which the UK’s Attorney General had said the UK could trigger an arbitration mechanism on day one of the Irish backstop coming into force, Mr Barnier accused Britain of acting in “bad faith”.
One source described the atmosphere in the Brussels meeting as “bleak” revealing that negotiators had thought they were close to a deal on Sunday, only for Mrs May to say no.
Reports May also discussing Article 50 extension in Strasbourg
Am in #Strasbourg where I gather #theresamay will meet not only Juncker, but EP #Brexit Task Force. She wants the EU’s offer of reassurance declaration to be declared legally binding. She wants to discuss privately an extension of Art50 deadline to 24 May.
— Richard Corbett (@RCorbettMEP) March 11, 2019
Sterling jumps as May scrambles to make Brexit deal
The pound jumped after May rushed to Strasbourg in a last-ditch attempt to avoid another defeat in parliament of her Brexit deal, Reuters reports.
Just 18 days before Britain is due to leave the European Union, there is still no ratified deal and talks with the EU stalled over the weekend as May felt she was unable to break the political deadlock in London.
In a day of frenetic diplomacy ahead of the parliamentary vote scheduled on Tuesday, May spoke to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an effort to find a way through the Brexit maze.
After falling in the last eight sessions, the pound rose by as much as 1.1 percent and hit the day’s high of $1.317 as chances Britain will leave the group without a deal – an option known as a “hard Brexit” – had narrowed.
Irish cabinet to hold unscheduled meeting on Brexit
Ireland’s cabinet is due to hold an unscheduled meeting this evening to discuss Brexit, Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said on Twitter.
The cabinet already had its regular weekly meeting earlier on Monday and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was due to be in the air on his way to Washington but has delayed his departure, a journalist from the Irish Independent newspaper said on Twitter.
May ‘hoping to agree a time limit on finding alternative arrangements to backstop’
1. Two sources suggest May hoping to agree a time limit on finding alternative arrangements to the backstop – so it remains, but 2 sides commit to finding a different way of doing it within a time limit
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 11, 2019
No-Deal planning continues
Meanwhile, Govt just published “Category 1 products” list “critical to preservation of human or animal welfare and/ or national security for UK” for which importers can apply for tickets on No Deal Brexit emergency ferries – medicines, medical devices, blood, organs, vaccines… pic.twitter.com/XCnL2K8V8y
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) March 11, 2019
Brexiteers summoned to Chief Whip’s office
Tory Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson and Steve Baker have been called in to see the Chief Whip, who has given them the latest update on the negotiations.
They have not said what Julian Smith told them but Mr Duncan Smith said he was expecting the Prime Minister to make a statement in Strasbourg at 9pm and that it was “reaching a point” where there could be an agreement and that he would “keep an open mind” about whether Eurosceptics could support it.
ERG stress that their “star chamber” of legally-trained MPs will have the final say over whether they back any deal.
Brussels resigned to Brexit extension after London rejects backstop offer
Brussels is resigned to Britain requesting an extension to the Brexit talks beyond the March 29 deadline, after UK-EU negotiations over the Irish border backstop broke down yet again over the weekend, James Crisp reports.
A tentative agreement was made between UK and EU officials on Sunday, EU sources claimed, but that deal was scuttled after discussions with the cabinet in London, despite tomorrow’s looming second meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Exasperated European Union diplomats predicted that only a March summit of EU leaders could finally “bring clarity” to the Brexit impasse over the Irish border backstop.
The prime minister has been seeking legal assurances from Brussels that the backstop, which would put Britain into a bare bones customs union with the EU if future trade talks fail to avoid a hard Irish border, will be temporary.
“There was basic understanding between the negotiators,” an EU diplomat said, “but the agreement didn’t fly in London.”
A deal is in the air…
Eurosceptic MPs have gone in to be sold on the new deal
Senior ERG members believe Attorney General and No 10 have some kind of deal to put to Parliament tomorrow – IDS, Steve Baker and Owen Paterson have just gone into see the Chief Whip
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 11, 2019
Barnier ‘indignant’ about Cox’s backstop exit boast
Michel Barnier was reportedly “indignant” this afternoon with Geoffrey Cox’s claim that the UK could trigger the arbitration mechanism to pave the way for its departure from the backstop from the first day it comes into effect.
Michel Barnier was indignant about Geoffrey Cox’s claim in @DailyMailUK iv that UK could trigger backstop arbitration mechanism on day one. He read out this part of the interview to ambassadors. Seen as lack of good faith on UK side. pic.twitter.com/pdKCXTd7Dy
— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) March 11, 2019
Merkel praises Barnier’s ‘important offer’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that that the European Commission has made an “important offer” to Britain
Merkel said in Berlin that it was “very welcome” that Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier made “a multitude of suggestions” over the weekend on how to define the so-called “backstop” meant to keep open the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland.
She added: “I think that an important offer has again been made to Britain, and now it is of course for Britain to respond to these offers.”
Did Cox stop an early deal?
Our man in Brussels James Crisp reports
A tentative agreement was made between UK and EU officials on Sunday, EU sources claimed, but that deal over the Irish backstop was scuttled after discussions with the cabinet in London, despite tomorrow’s looming second meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
he prime minister has been seeking legal assurances from Brussels that the backstop, which would put Britain into a bare bones customs union with the EU if future trade talks fail to avoid a hard Irish border, will be temporary.
“There was basic understanding between the negotiators,” an EU diplomat said, “but the agreement didn’t fly in London.”
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said the EU made a “very important offer” to Britain on Brexit and now it’s up to the UK to respond.
No-deal and delay votes still pencilled in
Brexit minister Robin Walker has reiterated what the Prime Minister promised at the despatch box
Robin Walker confirms all three votes will go ahead: meaningful vote tomorrow, no deal vote on Weds and delay Brexit vote on Thurs (though obvs each is conditional on the result of its predecessor)
— Gordon Rayner (@gordonrayner) March 11, 2019
Minister confirms vote tomorrow
Brexit minister Robin Walker has confirmed that the vote will be held tomorrow, with the exact text of the motion laid before the Commons tonight. Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, will give fresh legal advice, which leaves little time for legal experts to digest it.
David Cameron: I don’t think no deal is a good idea at all
The former Prime Minister has made another rare, but helpful, intervention for Theresa May
Irish deputy PM reveals May is off to Strasbourg
Simon Coveney has announced that Theresa May is off to Strasbourg tonight “to try to finalise an agreement, if that’s possible”. The Irish deputy prime minister seems to know more about the Prime Minister’s schedule than her own spokesperson is willing to divulge.
The visit, our deputy political editor Steve Swinford suggests, could mark the emergence of something on “alternative arrangements” to the backstop.
May faces urgent questions over her deal
As expected, John Bercow is ensuring that Theresa May is hauled before the House of Commons as soon as possible, granting Labour an urgent question about what has been going on with the deal this afternoon.
Brexiteer economist urges MPs to stop behaving like headless chickens
A No Deal exit from the EU is Britain’s best bet economically and politically, Professor Patrick Minford has warned.
The Brexiteer economist has produced a detailed report arguing that the UK economy will flourish under a “clean break” with the EU at the end of March., calculating that it could boost national output by 7 per cent over 15 years – worth £140 billion.
The report declares: “In its attempt to force through its EU Withdrawal Agreement, the Government is painting a No Deal Brexit as some sort of disaster. It is, in fact, a recipe for economic success – free of the shackles of EU protectionism, budget costs, intrusive regulation and subsidisation of unskilled immigration.”
The report says that the gains of a clean Brexit (which means quitting the customs union and single market, regaining national control over borders and regulations, escaping the European Court of Justice, and trading on WTO terms) arise from four key factors:
Number 10 confirms deal vote 2 will happen tomorrow
But could it still try to find an escape route with the wording of the motion? That remains to be seen. That could see MPs approve the deal subject to specific criteria being met.
BREAKING: Downing Street says Meaningful Vote on the Brexit deal WILL go ahead tomorrow evening, but we’ll have to wait until tonight to see the motion MPs will actually be voting on. Sounds like the devil will be in the detail.
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) March 11, 2019
Yvette Cooper warns May MPs will force a delay vote
Theresa May has been warned by Yvette Cooper that if she tries to pull the votes on ideas this week such as delaying Brexit, she and other MPs will demand she goes ahead with it.
Yvette Cooper has said she and Conservative MPs would attempt to force votes on an extension of Article 50 on Thursday should the prime minister pull the votes, saying it would be a “straight up lie” to parliament if May changed her plans
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) March 11, 2019
Here’s why the PM can’t pull this week’s votes easily
Nick Boles has pointedly reminded Downing Street that Theresa May did promise the House of Commons this week’s votes, so would “forfeit the confidence” of the Commons if she pulls it.
Anna Soubry calls for Brexitsceptic ministers to quit
Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who now sits as part of the Independent Group, has told Sky News that ministers worried about a no-deal exit need to have the “courage of their convictions” and “if they need to leave their ministerial office, they must do it” for that cause.
Brexit Secretary drops by Number 10
Steve Barclay has been seen popping into Downing Street
Brexit Sec has gone into Number 10 (afraid it is going to be that kind of day where we have to try to work out what’s going on by spotting which politicians are going in and out of which buildings around SW1)
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 11, 2019
Daniel Hannan says May’s deal is “worst of all” Brexits
Theresa May’s deal is the “worst” form of possible Brexits, a leading Conservative Eurosceptic has said.
Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, also a Telegraphy columnist, told Sky News that there “are better and worse forms of Brexit… we’ve gone for about the worst one of all”. The deal, he said, was proof that the EU was being “vindictive and aggressive”.
“If Parliament rejects its deal, then there needs to be a radically different approach,” he said. “Either we leave with no deal, or we try something completely different.”
George Freeman: ‘We are in a very, very serious crisis’
George Freeman, the Conservative MP, said “we are in a very, very serious crisis” and called for Theresa May to quit after Brexit.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Freeman said: “I hope the Prime Minister can get withdrawal through and then I do think we need to choose a new leader for a new generation with a new vision of a conservatism that can make sense of Brexit and re-inspire and reunite the nation.
“I hope we can do that having secured a sensible Withdrawal Agreement. A panicked change of leader now will solve nothing, we have got to get this through.
“I hope colleagues this week will recognise that: vote for the deal and then we can change.”
Mr Freeman said if Mrs May’s Brexit deal is defeated, the UK should opt for a Norway-style arrangement instead.
By joining EFTA / EEA we would achieve the vast majority of what people want – without dividing the United Kingdom. We’re in the EEA. All we would need is EFTA nations to say yes. (As they’ve signalled they will). And EU to approve. (Which they said as late as Sept they wld)
— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) March 11, 2019
Theresa May meeting senior aides to decide whether to pull meaningful vote
Theresa May is this morning meeting senior aides to decide whether to pull tomorrow’s meaningful vote and replace it with a “conditional” motion. This would allow them to vote on proposed changes to her withdrawal agreement before they are agreed with Brussels.
The big question will then be whether backbenchers including Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper will allow another delay, or if they will table an amendment calling for an extension to Article 50.
Brexit latest: PM meeting with senior aides in No10 now to plot a way through this week’s carnage. I’m told it’s most likely she will decide to change tomorrow’s vote from a meaningful one to a provisional one – ie her deal, plus Cox’s changes (1)
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) March 11, 2019
Sir Keir Starmer: Labour unlikely to call for second referendum this week
Sir Keir Starmer has suggested Labour will not call for a second referendum this week, as there would be “plenty of opportunities” to do so in the coming weeks.
Labour plans to whip its MPs to back an amendment by Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, which would put Theresa May’s deal to the country in a referendum. It has been designed as a way to break through Parliamentary deadlock.
The shadow Brexit secretary said the Commons is “fundamentally uncompromising right now” and suggested the amendment could be tabled at a later date.
His comments came as Jeremy Corbyn faced a rebellion in his shadow cabinet after ten frontbenchers warned they could quit if Labour backs plans for a second referendum.
The group of shadow ministers, who largely represent Leave-supporting seats, have expressed concerns over the party’s recent shift in policy, a senior source told the Telegraph. They have asked for a “free vote” if the party whips for a second referendum.
Downing Street says negotiations ‘deadlocked’
Bad news for Theresa May this morning as her team dispelled any remaining hope of a last minute breakthrough ahead of this week’s meaningful vote.
Number 10 said the talks in Brussels are “deadlocked”. There had still been speculation that some changes to the Withdrawal Agreement could be agreed today, prompting Mrs May to travel to Brussels.
However, it now appears she will face the crucial week in the Commons without a rabbit to pull out of her hat for MPs.
Parliament has been preparing to hold a second meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal tomorrow. If she loses, it would then vote to take no deal off the table, followed by a vote on whether to delay Brexit.
However, Mrs May is now under pressure to delay the meaningful vote and replace it with a “conditional” motion, which would put an option of a specific change to her deal to MPs, with the aim of then presenting it to Brussels as a clear mandate.
Mark Francois, the Brexiteer MP. told Sky News there is a 50/50 chance that tomorrow’s meaningful vote could be pulled.
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